Markus Vinzent's Blog

Monday, 8 April 2019

The Unknown Eckhart

The next topic of the conference of the Meister Eckhart Gesellschaft in 2020 will be "The unknown Eckhart".

Amongst many texts by Eckhart which are rarely studied or quoted, are those that have been edited by critical scholars over the past 150 years, but which have not made their way into the critical edition of Kohlhammer. As this edition is now coming to a close, I am working on an editio minor of these texts, a specimen of one of the homilies will be given below.

Homily * [Jostes 9]
In die consecrationis ecclesie et in anniversario eiusdem
‘Vidi civitatem sanctam Ierusalem novam descendentem de caelo a domino’ etc. (Apoc. 21:2)


The passage that Eckhart refers to, Apoc. 21:2 
(‘Vidi civitatem sanctam Ierusalem novam descendentem de caelo a domino’) 
is read on the celebration of the anniversary of the dedication of a church. 
The homily is part of the important Eckhart manuscript N1. 
Fragments are also present in Kla and N2 and there is a parallel to Hom. 29* [Q 43] 
and Hom. 75* [S 96], n. 4. That we find twice the explicit mention of Eckhart 
highlights that we are dealing with Eckhart texts (n. 6: ‘This Meister Eckhart says’; 
n. 9: ‘Meister Eckhart said’), though the text is presented in a redactional form 
which shows that either marginal glosses with reference to the author have been 
integrated into the text or that consciously the text is looked at from a third party 
perspective and moved into the direction of sayings. 

The content of the homily

The present homily consciously, as stated in n. 3, applies the biblical verse to the soul, 
not only making use of the Latin verse, but also, as often in Eckhart, the wider text that 
is given in the vernacular translation. Consequently, Eckhart comes back at the end 
of the homily to the topic of bride and groom that is present in the vernacular 
translation of the biblical text.
A) In order to avoid that the image of the ‘holy city’ is understood as something static, 
Eckhart introduces the idea that this city that is coming down from heaven is not 
something of the past or something of a unique event, but has to be understood as a 
continuous birthing of the Son by the Father (n. 3). Just as a house that is recently 
built looks brand new, so the soul being created by God is new (n. 4). Newness, 
however, means that the soul needs to keep close to her origin, needs to be even 
within her creator.
B) The biblical author John leads Eckhart to think about ‘grace’ (n. 5). 
In school the question was raised whether grace is a mixture (n. 6). Eckhart 
contradicts and refers to the idea that grace is rather like a spark that falls into the soul. 
Grace is an action that acts in itself, hence means sameness.
C) With reference to Is. 54:1 the preacher shows that birth does not mean 
to produce something, but like grace is an activity in itself (n. 7). Birth is essentially 
D) Hence, Eckhart is critical towards the alternative of Dominicans and 
Franciscans that either knowledge or will lead to beatitude. He suggests 
that beatitude is only given through beatitude, because divine action does 
not result in activities, but in rest, or rather: sameness (n. 8). Therefore 
God’s word is no word to be spoken out, not a word, to utter something 
alien, but an expression of full intimacy, of a oneness of distinction *n. 7). 
It is like with bride and groom, where mouth comes to mouth, kiss to kiss. 
It is an intimacy of Godd and the soul whereby the soul does not become 
numb, but is made capable of answering God (n. 9). It sounds almost
like a paradox, when Eckhart states: ‘As she has purely carried herself 
into God, so God gives Himself to her, that He works her work in her 
without help, so that she becomes a co-operator with God’. This is 
Eckhart’s precise description of co-operation of God and soul. Even 
though God works His work in the soul, it is the soul’s work, because 
God and the soul are not two different agents, but one. To be a co-operator 
with God does not mean that the soul is the passive part in this activity, 
but God has made her answer. Both are one, and yet, they are two. 
Both speak, both kiss, both love.
The homily ends in a short prayer that this may happen to us (n. 10).

Editions, commentaries and notes

F. Jostes, Nr. 9, 4,30-6,30.

Previous English translations

No previous translation.

Text and translation

<:1>‘Vidi civitatem sanctam Jherusalem’
<:1>‘Vidi civitatem sanctam Ierusalem’[1]
<:2>Sand Johannes sach in dem geist ‘ein stat’, die waz heilig und heiz Jherusalem; di stat waz niwe, si chom her nider vom himel und waz gemacht von golt und waz geziret alz ein braut irm man.
<:2>Saint John saw in a vision ‘a city’ which was holy and named Jerusalem; the city was new, came down from heaven, was made of gold and was ornated as a bride for her groom.
<:3>Daz wil ich auf di sel bringen. Der sun ist ewiclichen gewesen in dem vater, und er gebirt sinen sun an underlaz, und di geburt ist alle zeit newe. Waz bei sinem angang ist, daz ist newe. Ein hauz, daz gestern gemacht ward, daz ist heut newe, wan ez ist nahen bei sinem angange.
<:3>This I will refer to the soul. The Son has eternally been in the Father, and He gives birth to His Son without interruption, and the birth is new all the time. What is close to its beginning, is new. A house that was built yesterday, today is new, because it is near to its beginning.
<:4>Got schuf di sel in seinem einborn sun und bildet si in im und sach si in im, wie si im wehagte: do wehagt si im wol. Die sel, deu niwe sol sein, di schol sich halten al mittel in got und sich wider bilden in sinem einborn sun und schol wereit sein zu enphahen an underlaz den influz von got.
<:4>God created the soul in his inborn Son and formed her in Him and placed her in Him, as she pleased Him. There she pleased Him well. The soul, that was meant to be new, must keep herself by all means in god and form herself into His inborn Son and must be prepared to receive the influx of God without interruption.
<:5>Unser herre wart gefraget, wer sand Johannes wer, ob er wer ein prophete. Er ist mer den ein prophete: allez daz die propheten ye geprophetizierten, daz geschach in eim naturlich lauf. S. Johannes waz alz verre gezogen uber di natur, daz alle creatur warn ze grob dar zu, daz si sine werch enphahen mochten.
<:5>Our Lord was asked, who Saint John was, whether he was a prophet. He is more than a prophet: Everything that the prophets ever prophesied, naturally happened. Saint John was pulled so far beyond nature that all creatures were too coarse to be able to receive his works.
<:6>Johannes ist alz vil gesprochen alz gnad. Nu wart gefragt ein w=rtlein in unser schFl, daz di gnad wart mangerlei. Antwort ich dar zu und sprach: si enhert ni nicht auz einem trephelin, aber ein funkelin daz vellet wol auz der gnad in di sel, daz hat alz vil creft in im, daz dar uuz entspringent di creft der sel, wechantnuzze und gelaub und minne, di werden webeget. Waz ist gnad? Gnad, alz gnad an ir selber ist, so enwurht si niht uz, mer sie wurcht inn. Wer ein mensch, der diser gnad het ein tr=pflin, der het mer gutes und [wer] inreilicher gefugt in daz redlich wesen an werch, alzo, geworcht er nimmer niht und sliff all weg, nochden wer er neher got und inreilich[er] got. Ich sprich: wer daz ein mensch do sich hundertstund eines tages lizze brennen leuterlichen durch got, alle sine werch ch=nden im nit gehelffen dar zu, daz er kond in daz ungeborn wesen gefugt werden alz dicz mensch an werch. Waz ist gnad? gnad wurchet ein indem bodem der sel; da nie geburt in gedacht ward, da wurket gnad in und wurkt alz verre in, daz di drei ein wesen sein. Got und gnad sint alzo glich, wo got furget, do treit er di gnad auf dem nikken. Dicz spricht meister Ekkart.
<:6>John means as much as grace.[2] Now, one has asked a small question in our school, whether grace was a mixture. To this I answered and said: it never hardens out of a drop, but a spark quite falls out of grace into the soul which has so much power in it that from it come forth the powers of the soul, knowledge, belief and love, they are set in move. What is grace? Grace as grace by itself does not work externally, it rather works internally. If there were a human being who had a drop of this grace, he had more goodness and were more inwardly placed into the rational being without a work, hence, he would never work and slept everywhere, as much as he were nearer by and inwardly in God. I say, if there were a human being who would let himself purely burn by God for a hundred hours a day, none of his works could help him to be placed into the unborn being like this human being without a work. What is grace? Grace works within the ground of the soul. Wherein birth was never conceived of, in there grace works and it works in there so much, so that the three are one being. Hence, God and grace are the same, where God walks on, He carries grace on His neck. This Meister Eckhart says.
<:7>Der prophet spricht: Frawe sich auf der der nicht gebirt diner frucht der ist vil, der ist wol tausend stund mer dan di frucht gebernd sind in der werlt, der ist an zal vil. Di sel hat ein naturlich licht in ir. In dem naturlichen licht hat got mer lustes und me genug dan in allen creaturen, die er ie geschuff: er verzirt alle sin craft in dem naturlichen liht. Nem man ein schwarzen kolen: alz unglich der wer wider [den] himel, alzo sind alle creatur wider dem naturlichen licht, daz di sel in ir treit. Wan si ingetragen wird in daz liht, so gebirt si sich selben und ir selber in ir selber, und gebirt sich wider sich selber in sich. Si verleust alz gar alle di gebFrt und wirt alz gar uber sich derhaben und wirt alz gar geneiget ein in ein. Si chFmt dar zu, daz si got gebirt, alz sich got selbe gebirt; und da geschiecht rehte einung trucz allen creaturen, trucz den engeln, trucz got selbe, daz er da einik unterscheid vinde.
<:7>The prophet says: ‘Rejoice, o barren one who does not bear your fruit, there are many’, there are quite thousand times more than those who bear fruit in this world, they are numerous.[3] The soul has a natural light in herself. In this light, God has more pleasure and is more satisfied than in all creatures that he has ever created: He spends all his power in this natural light. If one takes a [piece of] black charcoal: As dissimilar this were compared to heaven, so are all creatures compared to the natural light, that the soul carries in herself. When she is carried into this light, then she gives birth to herself and for herself in herself, and, again, gives birth to herself in herself. Then she leaves birth and becomes elevated above herself and inclined to be one in one. She finally gives birth to God as God gives birth to Himself; and there true oneness happens, despite all creatures, despite the angels, despite God Himself, so that there He finds oneness of distinction.
<:8>S├╝mlich meister die suchen selicheit an bechantnuzze oder an willen: ich sprich, daz selicheit weder an wechantnuzze noch an willen en liet. Daz ist selicheit, daz sie l[ie]t[4] alle selicheit, daz ist alle ir selbesheit. Der himel wurchet alle sine werch darum, daz er sich got gelichen wil: niht daz er sich gelichen wol an den werchen, mer er sFcht reuwe, alzo alz daz wesen ist an werch: daz selbe sucht der himel, daz er cheme in ein stille stan. Sucht dicz der himel und ander creatur, di snoder ist, waz solten wir danne tun? Da belibet got got, da belibet selicheit selicheit und gnad gnad und sel sel.
<:8>All masters seek blessedness either in knowledge or will. I say that blessedness is given neither through knowledge nor will. Blessedness entirely is blessedness, it is entirely being itself. The heaven works all its works, in order to adjust itself to God. Not that it wants to adjust to its works, rather it seeks rest, just as the being is in works. The heaven seeks the same that it may come to a stand still. If the heaven and all other creatures that are less than it, seek this, what are we to do? There God remains God, there blessedness remains blessedness and grace grace and the soul the soul.
<:9>Meister Ekkart sprach: got der wer ein spruch an spruch und wer ein wort an wort, und in dem werden lebendich alle creatur und waschende. Wer hat daz wort gesprochen und den spruch gesprochen? Der himlisch vater der hat in gesprochen in sinem eingeborn sun. Mag daz wort [und den spruch] nimant gesprechen? Nein, den mag niemant gesprechen dan der himlisch vater, und wirt doch gesprochen. Wenn wirt er gesprochen und wo wirt er gesprochen? Wenn die sel chein genug hat an cheiner creatur und si sich ze mal in got getragen hat mit allen iren werchen und ir selbs vergezzen hat und meint got lauterlichen; da gibt got mer dan si selb immer gedenken mag. Alz si sich alzo leuterlichen in got getragen hat, so gibt sich ir got alzo, daz er ir werch wurket in ir an erbeit, daz si sei ein mitwurcherin mit got. Und wo wirt er gesprochen? Wen daz alleroberst teil der [sel] bloz und ledich ze mal vereint wird mit got, da wirt daz wort gesprochen und der spruch, und da ist mund zu mund kumen und da ist kFz ze kFz chumen, und di sel verstet daz wort in dem wort und nieman mer; und di sel di chunde auch etwaz dar auf geworten. Hie ist di sel zu irm aller obersten kumen.
<:9>Meister Eckhart said that God would be a saying without saying and would be a word without a word, and that in Him would come alive all creatures and all that grows. Who has spoken the word and has spoken the saying? The heavenly Father, he has spoken it in his inborn Son. Can nobody speak the word [and the saying]? No, nobody can speak it except the heavenly Father, and yet, it is spoken. When is it spoken and where is it spoken? When the soul does not longer satisfies itself with any creature and has herself entirely carried into God and with all her works and has forgotten about herself and purely thinks of God; there God gives more than she herself has ever dreamt of. As she has purely carried herself into God, so God gives Himself to her, that He works her work in her without help, so that she becomes a co-operator with God. Und were is it spoken? When the highest part of the [soul] is naked and free, entirely united with God, there the word and the saying are spoken, and there come mouth to mouth and kiss to kiss, and the soul understands the word in the word and nobody else; and the soul could answer to it. Here, the soul has arrived in her highest part.
<:10>Daz uns dicz gesche, dez helf unz got.
<:10>That this may happen to us, may God help us!

[1] See Apoc. 21:2 (Vidi civitatem sanctam Ierusalem novam descendentem de caelo a domino). The context is Apoc. 21:2–5 and can be found in Collectarium, Arch. f. 432ra: ‘In die consecrationis ecclesie et in anniversario eiusdem. Lectio libri Apocalipsis beati Iohannis apostoli. In diebus illis vidi civitatem sanctam [Et ego Ioannes vidi sanctam civitatem Vg.] Iherusalem novam descendentem de celo a Deo, paratam, sicut sponsam ortatam viro suo. Et audivi vocem magnam de throno dicentem: Ecce tabernaculum Dei cum hominibus, et habitabit cum eis. Et ipsi populus eius erunt, et ipse Deus cum eis erit eorum Deus: et absterget Deus omne lacrimam ab oculis eorum, et mors ultra non erit, neque luctus, neque clamor, neque dolor erit ultra, quia prima abierunt. Et dixit qui sedebat in throno: Ecce nova facio omnia’.
[2] For ‘John’ in the sense of ‘grace’, see Hom. 75* [S 96], n. 4.  Hieronymus, Liber interpretationis Hebraicorum nominum (Lagarde 136, 6–7): ‘Iohannan cui est gratia uel domini gratia’.
[3] Is. 54:1: ‘Lauda, sterilis, quae non paris; decanta laudem, et hinni, quae non pariebas: quoniam multi filii desertae magis quam eius quae habeat virum, dicit Dominus’; see also Gal. 4:27: ‘Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear children; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labour! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband’ (‘Laetare sterilis, quae non paris: erumpe, et exclama, quae non parturis: quia multi filii desertae, magis quam eius quae habet virum’); on the two verses see Hom. 26* [S 99]. Unfortunately, the English language does not allow the word play between ‘gebernd’ (to bear fruit) and ‘gebernd’ (to give birth).
[4] The ms. mistakenly has ‘leit’.

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